A grandmother from Godalming, Surrey, will be paid compensation after council contractors mistakenly threw away "priceless" personal belongings, which were being stored in a council-owned garage. Paula Hogsden said she was "in mourning" after decades of photos and "irreplaceable" ornaments, bequeathed to her by her late mother, were accidentally disposed of after contractors working for Waverley Borough Council (WBC) were advised they could clear out the garage. “My heart goes every time I think about it,” said Miss Hogsden. “I have lost a lot of memories - photos, personal belongings no-one can replace. I lost my mother 10 years ago. A lot of things I stored in the garage were my memories of her. All my mum’s bits and pieces and ornaments - gone.
“My son lost his dad - also a lot of pictures gone. Photos of my children growing up, school photos, you can’t replace them. My karate trophies and medals - again you cannot replace.
They had said ‘I’m sorry it’s a mistake’, but I can’t accept this. I just can’t believe they have done this. They must have known they were someone’s belongings.”
Ockford Ridge resident Miss Hogsden was given free use of the garage while her home was knocked down to be rebuilt as part of the council’s project to regenerate the area.
Miss Hogsden was moved into temporary accommodation on June 9 and handed the keys to the garage soon after to help store her items.
“My move was stressful for me in June,” she said. “I didn’t cope very well with it. I didn’t want to [move]. In my view, why not do the house up so people can keep their lovely gardens?
“I had honeysuckle growing there 15 years. It used to look all cottagey. I had a 14x14 shed in my back garden but there was no way that I could move that, so that they gave me the garage."
Miss Hogsden visited the garage opposite her former home in October last year to store her dog’s cage and a barbecue.
It was a couple of months later on Christmas Eve, when she went to retrieve her dining table and chairs, she discovered everything had vanished.
“The garage was full of empty dustbins," she said. “They have dumped it. It’s gone. They gave me the key and they didn’t put it down that it was handed to me.
I can’t buy the kids photos back, all of my mum’s ornaments that she passed down in the family, that I would have liked to have passed down to my grandchildren.
They won’t see pictures of any of them. I’m in mourning.”
Miss Hogsden, who has lived in Ockford Ridge for 20 years, said she got in touch with the borough council to see what could be done.
She received an apology and was told the garage was given to the contractors to store the bins.
"The contractors apparently phoned the council office to say the garage was not empty and full of things," said Miss Hogsden. "They were told to clear it.”
In a bid to rectify the situation, Miss Hogsden has been offered undisclosed compensation - but she stressed some of the items were irreplaceable.
“How can you put a price on all my kids' photos?" she said. "[They're] priceless.”
A spokesman for Waverley Borough Council said: “It is unfortunate this happened. We have apologised to Miss Hogsden and will discuss arrangements for compensation with her.”